The astonishing construction of one of New York’s most iconic buildings is exhibited in archive journal footage as workers struggle to install an eagle’s head from the dizzy heights of the 61st floor.
The 1,046-foot Chrysler building in New York was built at the end of the Roaring Twenties according to a quick construction schedule that only took 20 months from laying the foundations to the official opening.
The rapid construction was done thanks to the 3,000 construction workers who were able to assemble the steelwork in just six months in the summer of 1929, at a rate of four floors a week.
A shot down shows how high the employees are without safety harness
Construction workers sit on Chrysler Building scaffolding without armor or helmets
The workers are standing on the side of the partially built building without helmets
The Fox Movietone sound cameras visited the construction works in 1929 and 1930 several times, in this video a visit to the workers while they installed the eagles on the upper floors of the building in honor of owner Walter P. Chrysler and his car cap ornaments.
The workers are struggling on the eagle’s head while standing high above the cars down Lexington Avenue.
The video opens with a group of men who are dangerously standing on the side of the partially built building and holding the wires while the street noise drives up many floors below.
They are then balanced on wind-shaken scaffolding while cleaning the newly installed glass, a shot toward the extreme heights that workers have reached as they pull the scaffolding apart to work on the next part of the building .
Car manufacturer Walter P. Chrysler bought the lease of the unfinished building of property developer William H. Reynolds at the end of 1928 after Reynolds realized that he could not cover the costs of the contract he had set for architect William. Van Alen.
A construction worker is sitting on a steel beam in the construction of the Chrysler building
Construction workers climb on scaffolding without armor on the 1000 ft high building
Both Van Alen and the new owner, Chrysler, set out to make their new building the tallest in the world, with Chrysler seeing the construction as a sign of his newly established company profile that had just started his car company three years earlier.
The Woolworth building at 792 feet from Cass Gilbert was the tallest building in the world since 1913, but was taken over in 1929 by the Bank of Manhattan Trust building on Wall Street, with a length of 300 meters.
The architect of the Bank of Manhattan Trust building was Craig Severance, the alienated former business partner of Van Alen and there was fierce competition between them when the ‘race to the sky’ took over the city.
Severance decided that he would extend the 40 Wall Street spire by 60 ft and push it up to 925 ft total and 85 ft longer than what he thought was the plan for his rival’s building.
Van Alen and the Chrysler building would eventually reach the top, secretly build the now famous 185-foot Chrysler peak and erect it in just 90 minutes.
A plane flies around the Chrysler Building in New York City, USA around July 3, 1930, just a few weeks after it was officially opened as the world’s tallest building on May 27, 1930
The sharp, glittering spire of the Chrysler Building grandstands revealed while the tallest building in the world throws its scaffolding on 26 May 1930 – The spire was built in secret
Architect William Van Alen saw the Chrysler Building as an opportunity to defeat his estranged former partner Craig Severance, who was the architect of the Bank of Manhattan Trust building on 40 Wall Street, also competing for the title of World’s Tallest Buildng
They determined the construction of the spire after the Bank of Manhattan Trust had reached the highest point and declared itself the tallest building in the world, immediately invaded to claim their title and the first man-made structure became more than 1,000 foot.
With the stainless steel spire erected on October 23, 1929, the Chrysler building now reached 1,046 ft, making it the winner of the 1929 battle for “the tallest building in the world.”
The Chrysler building bore the title of the world’s tallest building for only eleven months.
It would also be only eleven months in the world, the Empire State Building claims first place on April 11, 1931.
The Chrysler building was officially opened on 27 May 1930 and began construction on 19 September 1928.
According to ForConstructionPros.com, 3,000 construction workers were involved in the construction of the Chrysler building, but zero deaths, an unusual phenomenon in the construction of a tall building at the time, when the death of steel workers was all too common.
Only a year later, when the Empire State Building was being built, five people would have died among 3,400 construction workers. However, the construction went even faster and lasted only one year and 45 days.
The Chrysler building depended heavily on steel to reach its 77 floors and cost $ 20 million to build.
Van Alen eventually sued Chrysler for payment because the car manufacturer refused to cough up, believing that the architect had some unreliable contacts with suppliers.
The building comprised a total of 20,961 tonnes of structural steel, 391,881 rivets, 3,826,000 bricks, 10,000 and 3,862 windows
The Art Deco look of the Chrysler Building was considered modern, urban and luxurious, with distinctive elements such as the horizontal black and white stripes between the floors and the streamlined eagle heads.
The design is also a tribute to the owner Chrysler and his car roots, including hubcaps, fenders and hood ornaments between the decorations of the building.
As seen in the video, the 61st floor is also engraved with eagle heads, replicas of the ornaments of the Chrysler hood from 1929.